Vattenfall starts up German brown coal-fired plant

* Boxberg R has 675 MW power capacity, cost $1 billion

* Will burn indigenous brown coal, independent of imports

FRANKFURT, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Swedish utility Vattenfall's German unit started up a new coal-fired power station on Thursday in a rare departure from the country's strategy to focus on renewable energy and ditch its nuclear power.

The 675 megawatts (MW) Boxberg R plant in the eastern state of Saxony will be fuelled with local brown coal from an adjacent eastern German mining area and cost 1 billion euros ($1.29 billion) to build.

Saxony state premier Stanislaw Tillich said the brown coal was local, providing for steady power generation and would complement renewables, such as solar and windpower, whose output varies depending on weather patterns.

"Our domestic brown coal is an important partner for renewable energy because it guarantees security of supply," he said in a statement.

Germany last year enacted a law under which its remaining 12,696 MW of nuclear capacity will be phased out over the next 10 years.

That equates to around half its reliable electricity capacity - that which is able to run 24 hours a day independent of the weather. This means it needs to find at least partial replacements through new gas and coal-fired plants.

Local brown coal mining firms say that imported hard coal and gas make utility companies reliant on global fuel prices and availability. Their product gets around these disadvantages while also safeguarding thousands of local jobs, they say.

Boxberg R will bring total capacity at the Boxberg site to 2,575 MW, which is enough to supply four million households with power.

Vattenfall Europe Generation is the operator and Vattenfall European Mining the raw materials provider.

($1=0.7751 euros)

(Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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